Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1914 (Heft 47)

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******** and I wandered aimlessly in
the dark, utterly alone and it was very bitter. And I was numbed by a
great tumult into what seemed the stillness of death. But presently above
the terrible din, I heard a voice inviting “Abandon soap all ye who enter
here” and I straightway thought “Me for that, I haven’t any anyway” and
although the voice seemed afar off, nevertheless it was a living voice, so
thitherward I bent my steps. And as I approached, the voice waxed louder
and continued “Come washed or come unwashed, take off your things and
stay awhile, and let us see what you are really like or keep them on and stay
awhile and—if you can—see what we are really like. Don’t come at all if
you don’t want to, but we’re here anyway and you’re welcome. It doesn’t
matter whether you are clean or unclean so long as you are living, and if
you are living, you are altogether likely to need soap in spots but that is
none of our darn business, and I guess we can stand it if you can.” And I
became aware of a great scrambling and jostling, and I thought it must be
a “movie” show with drinks and pictures free to all, and with a great effort,
worthy of such a goal, I strove, but I was jostled this way and that, and I
was in dire peril of being trampled underfoot, until presently in my blind
struggling, I burst through the crowd, fell prone and lay still. After a space,
being somewhat recovered, I stirred and looked about me, and found my-
self in a little entrance, quiet, and alone, while the noisy noisome jostling
horde swept by. And I was in the lowest depths of despair, and as I
could not look any lower—and yet still wanted to look—perforce I looked
around me and above, and a strange peace came over me, the which, how-
ever, was quickly dispelled, as the realization came to me (I know not by
what manner of means) that from the distance, I had not heard aright, and
that it was spelled with an “H”. Nevertheless I was glad, because had I
heard aright, my courage would never have brought me thus far, and I
should have vapored away in utter darkness. But now as the deceit of my
ears was set aright, again, even as before, I said “Me for that, I haven’t any
anyway” and straightway I arose and went in.
And I became aware, even as I entered, that what had seemed to me
to be, was not, and that neither soap nor hope would avail me, and I under-
stood the meaning of the bidding. And out of the mists, dimly, but in liv-
ing fire, before me shone HOPE. And there were quiet forceful voices about
me, that were indubitably living voices, and there was the deep solace of
sympathy and understanding, and I was no more alone. And * *
Rex Stovel

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